Doing something that I would consider to be 'impossible' - biking for 12 months around North and Central America - Heidi and Rueben of Pedal Powered Family are not only doing it, but they're doing it with two small toddlers in tow.
On a Big Adventure from their home in Hamilton Ontario, across the U.S., down the Pacific Coast through Mexico and Central America, then from Panama City on a ferry to Florida and up the East Coast - what they have planned is a monumental, challenging, and ultra-exciting adventure.
Learning more about this family, I've been powerfully inspired by their world-view and mission for living and traveling.
While many of their words could have come from my own lips - because they're values that I hold dear - Heidi and Rueben's commitment to living simply, giving generously and pursuing dreams courageously are a guiding light to 'unconventional' family living.
1. Who are you? (Names, ages of your family members, and something unique about you)
Heidi (30), Reuben (28), Eden (3), and Harper (16m). We’re a young family who aims to explore the world and live life together before we get trapped in the normative expectations of our culture.
2.How does your family travel? What adventure are you pursuing? (Living abroad, by plane, boat, country hopping, road trip, bike trip, etc.)
Slow travel by bicycle is our method of choice, and we are leaving on a 12 month trip around North and Central America on May 21st, 2011.
Over the next year we hope to connect with other cycling families and individuals along our route.
3. What is your family vision/mission? Why do you do what you do?
We strive to live simply, give generously and travel slowly.
Simplicity: The act of family bicycle travel demands simplicity -- from being limited in how much stuff you can take with you, to streamlining daily routines and getting away from the mindless materialism of our culture.
Generosity: Travelers can often be on the receiving end of hospitality. We want to be on the lookout for what contributions we can make to people we encounter and to learn from the experience.
Slow travel: The most important mission we have is to simply take it slow (this won’t be too hard given we will be traveling under our own power).
This world spins much too fast, especially in North American culture, and taking a year off to grow closer as a family and spend more time with our kids is a journey that will allow us to put our lives in perspective.
4. What challenges have you overcome to do what you’re doing?
A number of years ago, before we had kids or planned for this adventure, we began dramatically simplifying our lives.
Through this process we have been able to reduce our list of ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ shed debt, and above all, find ways to give more of our time and resources to those who have greater needs than us.
In short, it has helped us begin to overcome a lot of our own greed and selfishness (a struggle we still face daily). We have also been able to allocate additional funds and time away from work to make our journey possible.
We intend our bicycle adventure to act as an ultimate simple living training session, cementing principles and practices in our routine that will help us live with less, so we can give away more and further align our life with our values.
Many people see travel as a self indulgent act, something that can only be done if you have the disposable time and income -- but it can be much more than that.
This unconventional way of living can cause you to re-evaluate your actions and enable you to offer more of yourself up to others.
5. What would you tell others who want to live an unconventional family life?
For us, we lived the ‘normal’ life before kids. Went to college, got jobs, bought a house, accumulated stuff.
It wasn’t until we started a family that we began to really realize that what were doing didn’t fit with our values -- mainly how we wanted to spend our time and money.
Having children makes you think about what you are teaching them, and the best way to illustrate our principles to our children was to live them out.
When many people hear about our plans, they say to us, “I wish I could afford to do that.”
They don’t see the chain of choices we’ve made in order to take this adventure -- and the norms we’ll continue to forgo in order to live out this unconventional dream.
They also don’t realize that they can make similar choices to change the way they are currently living.
Take a look at your goals for your life. Take a look at your values.
Are you living them out or is there a contradiction between what you value and how you are currently living?
If you value family time or travel - are you making time or saving money to do it?
Perhaps you value family time, but right now you’re sacrificing time with your family in order to achieve something else.
Sit down and evaluate your wants and desires for your life and then come up with goals to help realize them.
Confront your fear of the unknown or your reluctance to break out of the cookie cutter mold in whatever culture you are a part of.
Think outside of the box - what memories do you want to have - what do you want to teach your kids about the world you live in - how can you best communicate your values to your children?
Begin to answer these questions and you are already living unconventionally.
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